Hello, I’m Bertie. This column is basically a place for me to call bullshit on girl related stuff that I think is dumb. While I appreciate the importance of girl talk, I’m not about to braid your pubic hair or send you the results of my latest smear test. Instead, I will pass on any remotely useful knowledge I happen to discover re: being a FEMALE. Trust me: I’m not a doctor, but I do have a Ph.D in pretty girl bullshit.
PRETTY GIRL BULLSHIT #28:
Last week, the General Synod – the governing body of the Church of England – voted against allowing women to be ordained as bishops. Weirdly, loads of people have spent the last week losing their shit about it. I'm actually kind of stoked that women have been banned from scaling the ladder to that particular mezzanine in the house of God. Have you seen what bishops have to wear every day? They've been consigned to fashion limbo for the past 1970 years, for God's sake. Passé, much?
Meet Bishop Sisk. I haven't chosen to pick on him for any particular reason – he lives in New York, so he didn't get a chance to decide whether Pretty Girls should be allowed to become bishops or not. But check out his get up. Never mind women, I don’t think anybody should be forced to wear clothes that Alexander McQueen sent down the runway – what was it, now? Ten seasons ago?
And won't you take a look at that funny little hat. I mean, unless you have Blake Lively’s hair and a Chanel miniskirt suit, you’re about to commit serious fashion suicide, and that’s like, totally forbidden in the Bible. Sure, all the cream, bright red and gold embroidery might be very Daphne Guinness, but don't kid yourself that you're going to look half as couture as her when you're wearing what is essentially some curtains, a bedsheet and an upside-down lampshade with holes cut in it. Maybe if the clergy actually used their home furnishings in the way God intended rather than playing dress-up all the time, you could go into a church without feeling like your nipples were standing to attention for Christ.
I hit the internet to find out if this was just some huge new Tumblr trend that was going over my head, but then I hit a problem: people weren't trying to stop women becoming bishops to protect them from inevitable fashion catastrophe, they actually thought women shouldn't be bishops because of their boobs and functioning ovaries and stuff. The deeper I delved, the quicker it dawned on me that I was being a total label whore, and I needed to take a look at the bigger picture. I did my research and found this article, by Catherine Brooks, which had absolutely no mention of Alexander McQueen in it.
Brooks’ piece outlines the basic problem with contesting the female bishops veto: the Bible. If you’re going to dedicate your life to worshipping some guy from some book which makes less sense than Sex In The City II (and that film made no sense, I mean they weren’t even in a city), then you should be willing to subject yourself to any prehistoric gender rules it decides to impose upon you. Basically, Eve was a sultry young temptress made out of rib, and so are you. And – bar a few concessions – that's the way it is and will always be. Viewed through a biblical prism, Brooks' argument against women being allowed to become bishops is pretty much incontestable. Unsurprisingly, it’s indicative of a viewpoint being cited all over the place.
The problem is, it’s bullshit. There are lots of things in the Bible that we have phased out of our everyday lives because we no longer live in 500AD. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to snarl them at you in my best sixth former's sneer, I know you know it's frowned upon for people to get their slaves to creep around in the night stealing their neighbours' oxen these days.) I think a lot of religious people just want to hold onto the gender boundaries because they’re really a fundamental part of the Bible, and to discount them would be to admit that we’ve moved that far away from the Word of God.
As much as I feel oh so super soz for them that the basic tenets of their existence are getting washed out with the tide, it’s not fair that you can stop stoning your kids when they're disobedient, but not make allowances for the huge advances in gender equality over the last couple of decades. By very publicly failing to do so, the church has once again shown itself as being unable to adapt to the needs of its supporters. I’m not anti-religion, I’m totally spiritual (have you heard of Kabbalah?) and there is certainly huge merit in an organisation that has the ability to fill people with a sense of personal worth, hope and faith, but when the exclusivity of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is broadcast in full colour, everything positive is undermined by the exposure of select agendas kept in place to subjugate dedicated members of its congregation.
There’s one last dreg of Pretty Girl Bullshit I need to address, before I send this off and face the wrath of the thousand billion Carrie’s moms who spend their time googling “God sucks” so they know who not to pray for. Why are people so fucking desperate to prove women’s worth to the church in light of this vote, by saying they’re “cherished”? Why, Catherine, do you need to grind home the obvious fact that you are wrong, by using the most dated and absurd adjectives society has to describe women?
"I am privileged to be part of a church and a wider church network which does value women: their gifts; their passions; their contributions," she writes. "I see women cherished, encouraged, trained and celebrated. The assumption that those who do not think that women should be bishops are not prizing women is at best an unfair caricature. If it were true that all Christians in the country who hold this view are bigoted misogynists, then that would be both toxic and indefensible...
"Our culture believes that to be equal in value you have to be the same; to be diverse is to be unequal. So for women to be valued as highly as men, they have to be the same as men...
"The Bible, though, tells us that men and women, both made in God’s image, are equal in value and that they also have different roles. This is counter-cultural, but Christians are used to that, aren’t we?"
I don’t want to be “cherished”, “trained” (!!), or “encouraged”. I’m not a fucking Chihuahua. As a grown-up woman (sort of, nearly), the prospect of being encouraged by a room full of guys in old polyester gowns makes me snort into my cornflakes out of laughter, and then worry a little bit. So one final plea, even if we can’t be bishops, can we all just be human, before we sprout wings and go sing Usher ballads to Jesus in Heaven?
Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes
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